Bird Cage Substrate Paper: Are You an "Over" or an "Under?"

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The toilet paper controversy that has been raging for decades has been settled. You know, the issue of whether the toilet paper should be over the top of the roll or underneath the roll. People began referring to themselves as “Overs” or “Unders.” I was taught to be an “Under.” I don’t know why, but that’s how my Mom put the toilet paper into the holder. 

Turns out she was wrong. After over a hundred years and 15,000 letters to agony columnist Ann Landers, this raging controversy over something rather trivial has finally been settled.

Somebody decided to take a look at the patent illustration from 1891 and discovered that the true intention of the original patent holder of the device, a gentleman by the name of Seth Wheeler decreed that the roll of paper was designed to go over the top of the roll rather than the reverse. 

If you think this is a trivial issue, you’re right. However this “debate” has been going on for most of my life. There is even an entire Wikipedia page dedicated to this issue of “over or “under.”

Well, I’m so glad this controversy has been settled. It’s been on my mind most of my life. 

This brings me to my point. 

If you have companion birds, you are fully aware of our compelling need for newspaper. Lots of newspaper is something we struggle for. It is something we search for, beg for and sometimes get a subscription to a newspaper simply so we have enough to line the bottoms of our cages with. 

But the controversy lives: Are you an “Over the grate” person, or an “Under the grate person?” 

I myself put the newspaper over the bottom grate. I find this protects the grate and keeps it cleaner. I don’t really have to scrub the grate all that often as the newspaper protect it from getting gummed up with poop. The only thing that gets crapped on is the newspaper and that is easily folded up, whisked away to be relegated to the trash can and quickly replaced with fresh paper.


There is another advantage to this cage paper placement. Occasionally birds will decided that they want to play with the paper, scratch it up, chew on it and generally mess around with it in one way or another. Best Friends Parrot Garden had an African Grey named Ruby who would actually lift up the paper and rearrange it whereby creating a sort of a “Fort.”  It was very fun to watch this bird scratch at the paper and get it “just so” in order to hide song the folds. 

Some people find this aspect of putting the paper on top of the grate to be a negative thing. I disagree. This act of playing with their substrate paper is an enriching activity. 

Have you ever seen your bird doing the “Scratch Dance?” It’s especially fun to watch my African Grey Parker get ahold of the carpet nap, put his head down and scratch at the carpeting. 

I have absolutely no idea why birds do this, but they do. There must be some instinctive reason they do it, but I’ve never found a reasonable explanation for the activity. 

I’ve seen all of my Greys scratch at the paper at the bottom of their houses. I’ve seen them dig holes in it, trash it and chew on it. 

The up side to this destructive activity? They are active.

They are doing something and it engages them in an activity they find enjoyable. People will object to it stating that it’s messing up the paper and they have to replace it. Well, so what? I’d rather they engage in scratching the tar out of the paper then chewing the dickens out of one of my walls. 

Newspaper is cheap or next to free to obtain and I’d much rather replace newspaper than pull out the bottom grate and scrub it with a toothbrush every time it gets pooped on. 

So next time you are perplexed by the “Over” or “Under” conundrum, just think of toilet paper dispenser inventor Seth Wheeler and take a cue from him.